Tae Soup Shim, Seung-Man Yang, and Shin-Hyun Kim, "Dynamic Designing of Microstructures by Chemical Gradient-Mediated Growth," Nature Communications, 6, 6584 (2015).
Shape is one of the most important determinants of the properties of microstructures. Despite of a recent progress on microfabrication techniques, production of three-dimensional micro-objects are yet to be fully achieved. Nature uses reaction–diffusion process during bottom-up self-assembly to create functional shapes and patterns with high complexity. Here we report a method to produce polymeric microstructures by using a dynamic reaction–diffusion process during top-down photolithography, providing unprecedented control over shape and composition. In radical polymerization, oxygen inhibits reaction, and therefore diffusion of oxygen significantly alters spatial distribution of growth rate. Therefore, growth pathways of the microstructures can be controlled by engineering a concentration gradient of oxygen. Moreover, stepwise control of chemical gradients enables the creation of highly complex microstructures. The ease of use and high controllability of this technology provide new opportunities for microfabrication and for fundamental studies on the relationships between shape and function for the materials.
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